Nostr Free Internet: A concerning trend has arisen within the United States where concepts like “free speech,” “censorship resistance,” and “privacy” have been appropriated by individuals on the political right, while tools that support these ideals are debated and opposed by those on the political left. It is imperative to recognize that the principles of freedom, privacy, and technology resistant to censorship are essential for all individuals, irrespective of their political affiliations. It is counterproductive to turn these critical values into partisan issues, as doing so could steer us toward a future marked by the absence of privacy and the erosion of free speech safeguards. This future could be dominated by centralized entities controlled by those with the authority to censor, nullify, and eliminate vital freedoms that are enshrined in the principles and language of the U.S. Constitution.
Similar to the misguided politicization of Bitcoin as a technology favored by the right or libertarian ideologies, or ascribed negative attributes such as being a tool for criminals or dismissing concerns about climate change, open and decentralized protocols like Nostr could fall victim to the same fate unless we underscore the reasons why they are of universal significance. It is imperative that we communicate the value of these technologies to humanity at large, transcending political boundaries and affiliations.
The destiny of our capacity to engage in open communication, maintain privacy, and uphold property rights may hinge on the global populace comprehending the importance of open protocols that defy censorship and private, end-to-end encrypted means of communication.
The Significance of Nostr
The origin of Nostr can be traced back to the creative minds of the pseudonymous Bitcoin coder known as Fiatjaf and the Bitcoin enthusiast Ben Arc. As elaborated on the website nostr.how curated by JeffG:
“Nostr represents ‘Notes and Other Stuff Transmitted by Relays.’ Much like HTTP or TCP-IP, Nostr functions as a protocol—an open standard that serves as a foundation for anyone to build upon. Nostr is not a standalone app or service that necessitates a subscription. Instead, it is a design that prioritizes simplicity, facilitating globally decentralized and censorship-resistant publishing on the internet.”
In the present context, the application of the Nostr protocol predominantly occurs through clients (including apps and websites), such as the one I personally favor, Damus. Various other clients like Primal, Snort, and several others are being developed by passionate developers committed to this protocol. Each user contributes relays (a default in most contemporary clients), which facilitate the decentralized distribution of messages. Users can add free or paid relays. By utilizing Bitcoin as a means of exchange on Nostr, users can curb spam or bot interactions with relays/feeds and expedite their experience.
Users possess the ability to organize their global feeds based on relays and more. The beauty of this approach is in stark contrast to traditional social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn, all of which are fully centralized. For instance, platforms like Twitter manage content using their own servers or outsourcing the responsibility to third parties. This central relay concept can lead to censorship or exclusion based on various factors. Nostr, in contrast, ensures a multitude of relays even if one is subjected to censorship. Your Nostr account is not tied to a specific relay or client. Upon registration, each user is assigned an “npub” (akin to a “username”) and an “nsec” (similar to a “password”) that can be employed across clients. To illustrate, imagine if your Twitter credentials allowed access to every other social media platform while retaining all your interactions and connections from Twitter. This innovation is rather remarkable, isn’t it?
Practically, Nostr presents a seamless and user-friendly means of leveraging social media across diverse clients, providing you with unmatched authority and customization. On an ideological level, however, the significance runs far deeper.
As I mentioned earlier, Nostr embodies an open protocol accessible to all for posting and development, safeguarding it against censorship and granting users absolute control. Much like Bitcoin, accessing Nostr merely requires an internet connection.
Many of my progressive acquaintances have expressed their frustration with the apparent selective control exercised by platforms such as Twitter/X/Musk, dictating who can partake in “free speech” on their domains and who cannot. Several so-called “free speech” platforms have emerged in response, including Truth Social by Donald Trump, as well as Rumble and others. However, these platforms fall under the category of “Free Speech In Name Only” (FSINO). Despite adopting the veneer of free speech, they remain under the purview of corporations directed by individuals exercising centralized authority.
When I assert that Nostr champions free speech and places users in command, it isn’t driven by a self-proclaimed “free speech maximalist” ethos or a particular political leaning. Instead, it originates from the protocol’s inherent openness and accessibility to all, fostering a decentralized environment where numerous communities, ideologies, individuals, and movements can flourish and make use of the protocol according to their preferences. It exemplifies the intentions of the Cypherpunk movement for technology and an internet-enabled protocol: fostering freedom, resisting censorship, and empowering private, anonymous communication without the need for invasive checks or governmental oversight.
The Nostr Community’s Voice
Why is this so critical? To explore this query, I engaged with the Nostr community. Here’s a snapshot of the responses I received:
Derek Ross, creator of Nostr Plebs and Nostr Nests:
“While Nostr might not hold personal significance for me as a U.S. citizen, it carries immense importance for the countless individuals worldwide who lack access to free speech due to oppressive regimes censoring their communication. Nostr holds paramount importance for them. It embodies technology that resists censorship, enabling seamless communication while evading attempts to stifle it. We must reflect on the other 8 billion inhabitants we share this planet with.”
Lyn Alden, founder of Lyn Alden Investment Strategy:
“Nostr’s significance arises from its ability to facilitate unrestricted speech in a world where a substantial portion of the global population exists under authoritarian regimes. Not everyone may desire to participate in forums with unbridled discourse, but the existence of such an option is indispensable. Nostr empowers relays and client applications to customize their experience, striking a balance between open-source accessibility and tailored filtration to match distinct preferences. Over time, social media could evolve akin to email: a foundational, open-source layer supported by applications that tailor the content to suit individual needs.”
Walker, creator of The Nostrich, member of The Crypto Couple, Bitcoin advocate, and event organizer:
“Nostr’s appeal lies in its capacity to safeguard activists’ anonymity even in surveillance-heavy nations, offering a secure avenue for communication. It thwarts the suppression of expression and restores an internet environment devoid of algorithmic manipulation that aims to control, incite anger, and captivate. Nostr constitutes authentic social media.”
Carla, member of The Crypto Couple, Bitcoin advocate, and event organizer:
“As an individual present on Twitter, Bluesky, and Threads, I can unequivocally assert that only on Nostr do I truly express myself without reservation. Anything goes. Stream-of-consciousness musings? Absolutely. Pictures of dogs? Certainly. A mixture of attractive and unattractive feet? By all means. Scenic selfies or pastoral landscapes? Both are equally appealing. Podcasts, articles, intellectually stimulating content—all find a home here! There are no rigid rules or imposing authorities. While this liberty inevitably attracts undesirable content, it is the cost of authentic censorship resistance. Equipped with client-muting tools, users can craft their personalized experience, even within an open protocol. The landscape is nascent, electrifying, and expanding.”
Marce, contributing to “Nostr Report”:
“For me, Nostr assumes significance by redefining the very concept of identity. It unites two pivotal aspects: genuine private property and identity. Since your keys remain impervious, your identity genuinely belongs to you. All content shared on Nostr is perpetually yours to disseminate, safeguarding your voice against any form of silencing.”
A Flourishing Community
While numerous others employ Nostr daily to share thoughts and cater to specific applications, their sentiments align with those expressed by the distinguished voices above. Beyond the protocol’s open nature, the vibrancy of its community itself warrants admiration.
As of early August 2023, approximately 333,000 users are active on Nostr (for further data, explore Nostr.band). While this number, particularly the count of active users, pales in comparison to the masses on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, protocols such as Nostr envision longevity.
Each day witnesses developers building upon Nostr through social media clients, news portals, marketplaces, music hubs, virtual event platforms—you name it. We find ourselves in the nascent stages of Nostr’s journey, with an expansive realm waiting to be fashioned. One unassailable truth prevails among Nostr’s builders: Users within the community are generating and implementing Nostr in unprecedented ways, reminiscent of the early days of the internet.
Some may equate the Nostr environment to the fledgling era of Twitter, when the platform turned to the community to chart its course and determine which features would or would not gain traction (hashtags, for instance, emerged from community experimentation). Beyond the protocol’s transparent openness, Nostr’s developers maintain a culture of transparency, leaving notes for the community to engage with. The various clients vie to introduce cutting-edge features, fostering a friendly rivalry that resonates with an innate ethos of open-source collaboration. Such values advocate against taking oneself too seriously and champion the creation of a more expansive, interconnected communication plane for the internet—one that has deviated considerably from its initial trajectory with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Ultimately, Nostr encourages genuine connections and communications, unadulterated by the influence of central authorities, advertisers, or algorithms designed to stoke discord and hostility. While Nostr may not entirely eliminate the allure of rewards like likes and follower counts—motivators that, for some, transform into unhealthy dependencies—it directs its focus toward authentic connections and meaningful content (acknowledged via zaps—akin to content tips!). From personal experience, I can affirm that utilizing social media like Twitter induces overwhelming sensations and negative emotions, a contrast to the experience on Nostr clients.
This article offers a concise glimpse into a few pivotal aspects of Nostr’s appeal. With its open protocol, user-centric control, and contrasting objectives vis-à-vis prevalent social media, individuals across the spectrum, including progressives, should celebrate endeavors aimed at fostering the Nostr protocol. It urges us to reevaluate prevailing social media and communication protocols on the internet, urging us to participate in a considerate, open manner. As a user, you dictate the course—not a corporation, not a self-assured tech magnate, not a malevolent government or unstable political leader. You.
To ascribe political motives to this initiative would be to squander the potential for widespread adoption of a liberated form of social media and internet communication protocol. The question remains: How did these principles and liberating technologies become entangled in political webs? The answer lies within mainstream social media platforms that thrive on division, alluring us toward partisan fractures.